Vol. 14


The Inheritance of Hope

1945; Manchukuo;1 and Tokyo, Japan

Slosh, slosh, slosh. The water slapped against the ship. The smell of fish wafted through the air of the ship during the war.2 My grandmother Yoshiko was about seven years old and was fleeing with her family from Manchukuo to their home country of Japan in 1945.

My grandmother had been born in Manchukuo after her father had gone there to work as a civil engineer for the Japanese army. She had been happy there and had everything she needed. When the Soviets3 came, everything changed for her.

One day a plane suddenly flew over her head. Yoshiko quickly lay flat on the ground. She asked her friends, “What is that black smoke?”

Her friend responded, “We are getting bombed!” Terrified, Yoshiko ran for cover into a bomb shelter. Unfortunately, this episode became a common occurrence in her childhood.

One night, when Yoshiko was getting ready for bed, Russian soldiers abruptly came inside her house. “Will they hurt me? Will they take me away?” she thought to herself. The soldiers stole her radio and her family’s watches. Thankfully they did not lay a hand on anyone. Yoshiko’s father was worried, but he didn’t show it for the sake of his children.

Later Yoshiko’s family had to escape from Manchukuo to Japan. Everything they had, even their clothes, were stolen on that ship. The ship, and the fish they ate, carried bacteria. Many people developed infectious dysentery. My grand-mother’s little brother was only one year old and did not have a strong immune system. Yoshiko was carrying him on her back when he died. There were so many deaths on the ship that the crew had to throw the dead bodies into the ocean as they had run out of coffins.

When Yoshiko’s family finally got off the ship, life in Japan was very difficult. “Why are you so stinky? Why do your bangs hang over your face?” taunted Yoshiko’s classmates. The stench was her clothes, as she had only one pair. Her parents were too busy and too poor to get her haircuts.

Even though her father had been an engineer in Manchukuo, in Japan there were no jobs. He bought pots and pans, and sold them to farmers to get food. Yoshiko was determined to have a better life. Her dream was to make it to America. She worked extremely hard; she studied and read all night. It paid off, and people started to notice the girl with the bangs. She won a scholarship to a great college in America. Once again, she found herself crossing an ocean, but this time it was not to escape war, but to build a future full of hope.

As my grandmother shared her story, tears welled up in her eyes. “Are they tears of sadness or grief?” I wondered. No, I was an heir of this future hope. My grandmother beamed, “With hard work you also can achieve your dreams!”

Karissa Hsu; Missouri, USA


1. Manchukuo (pronounced man choo kwoh) was controlled by Japan from 1932 until 1945. Today the area once known as Manchukuo corresponds roughly to the three provinces in northeastern China.

2. China and Japan had been fighting since 1931. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, their conflict became part of World War II.

3. The Soviets were from the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Russia was the largest and most powerful republic in the USSR, which was fighting on China’s side, against Japan.



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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